Finally seen it. And it’s pretty fucking funny. And accurate. From travelling coach in China, to the all-out batshit craziness involved when you have anything to do with North Korea in a professional capacity, to the wierd homorepressed ass-obsession that prevails throughout semi-military government agencies the world over, it’s all spot on.
In fact, I think I’d probably say that the least plausible thing about the film is the fact that of the two Columbia journalism grads featured, one isn’t a complete douchebag.
Actually, the best possible summary of the film can be found in the critiques by middle-brow writers, though not for the reasons they probably think. James Taranto in the WSJ provided an excellent run-down here, starting with Peter Klein’s pearl-clutching piece:
One example is a piece by Peter Klein for the Columbia Journalism Review. Klein calls ‘The Interview’ ‘a dangerous movie,’ not just to Sony employees whose privacy was invaded by the hackers but to “another more serious group of victims,” namely journalists:
‘The film, which was released over the Christmas holiday, depicts two goofy journalists, played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, who score an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and who are recruited by the CIA to kill him. Rogen’s character, the producer of a television interview program, was supposedly educated at my alma mater, Columbia School of Journalism, but seemed to have no qualms about crossing what I recall was one of the most indelibly-inked lines of journalism ethics: don’t do the bidding of the CIA.
Why make a big deal of a movie that’s clearly fiction? Because it plays right into the farcical notions of the world’s tyrannical leaders—that journalists are secretly working for the CIA, an assumption which carries tragic consequences.’
Those ‘consequences’, according to Klein, include the murders of James Foley by the Islamic State and Daniel Pearl by al Qaeda and Iran’s arresting reporters and charging them with espionage. ‘The history of kidnapped journalists . . . is filled with tragic tales of reporters being mistaken for spies,’ Klein asserts. ‘It doesn’t help when pop culture reinforces the false image of reporters-turned-special agents.’
On the other hand, Klein apparently has no objection to the portrayal of Columbia grads as humongous blowhards, so there’s that.
And then there’s this awesome piece of snobbery from Todd VanDerWerff:
The ultimate failure of The Interview isn’t in that it makes North Korea a boring problem for someone else to worry about. The ultimate failure is that it doesn’t dare to suggest to its audience that a movie should ever challenge them on any level whatsoever.
To which Taranto (and everyone else who’s ever seen a Seth Rogen film) replies:
It seems to us that if you go to a Seth Rogen film expecting a suggestion that a movie should challenge you on any level whatsoever, the failure is yours and not Rogen’s.
Oh, and Bruce Bennett, the dude who was in the press everywhere last week calling it pornographic? Needs to get out more. There’s roughly three seconds of tits in there. Oh, and Seth Rogen takes his shirt off. I’m not sure which of the two episodes induced a heavy-breathing fit in Bennett, but rest assured, a normal adult human being will be unlikely to adorn the cinema’s upholstery with samples of their DNA in response to either scene.
In the end, what interested me most about the film was what it has to say about US ideas of morality. SPOILERS AHEAD:
The basic plot involves the James Franco character making friends with Kim Jong Un, refusing to kill him, finally realising that he is a terrifying dictator after all, and then calling him out on it on live tv.
I guess we’re supposed to sympathise with Franco’s character and accept Kim as the villain, and thus deserving of being shafted. I have to say, though, from an Asian or European perspective this is really hard to get onside with. Where I come from, sacrificing a friend for a principle is about the gravest sin possible, and – ergo – Kim’s in the right here…